House Republicans dropped worst parts of unemployment bill--for now

You don’t hear this every day: in an Iowa House speech on March 21, Democratic State Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt repeatedly thanked GOP colleagues for their work on a bill she opposed. House File 531 changed some aspects of our state’s unemployment insurance and benefits system. The first draft was much worse than the legislation House Republicans approved on a party-line vote this week.

The bill’s floor manager, State Representative Gary Worthan, warned that next year, lawmakers may return to a idea jettisoned following intense opposition from Democrats and labor groups.

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What's going on at the Iowa Department of Revenue?

Governor Kim Reynolds appointed former Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen as director of the Iowa Department of Revenue on February 22, only six weeks after she had named Adam Humes to lead the agency. A late Friday afternoon news release did not explain the reason for the change, saying only that Humes “has decided to pursue other opportunities.”* Paulsen will start work this coming Monday. Leadership transitions at state agencies typically are weeks or months in the making.

Humes’ predecessor, Courtney Kay-Decker, also left under odd circumstances. Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 2011, she sounded excited to continue to lead the department after the 2018 election. But in early December, Kay-Decker announced her resignation, effective at the start of the new year.

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Reminder: State employees can't boost the Reynolds/Gregg campaign at work

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend instructed all her agency’s employees today “to be mindful of state and federal guidelines regarding prohibitions of participation in political activities while on state time or using state assets.”

The action followed Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry about a September 29 e-mail from an operations manager to more than 60 Iowa Workforce Development colleagues, recruiting volunteers for the Kim Reynolds/Adam Gregg campaign under the subject heading, “A Message from Governor Reynolds’ Office.”

State law prohibits using “public moneys for political purposes.” Administrative rules written to implement that portion of the Iowa Code forbid public employees from using public resources “to expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate,” or “to solicit votes, engage in campaign work.”

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House Republicans approve workers' comp bill with major unfunded changes

Iowa workers lost again at the statehouse on Thursday, as 55 House Republicans approved a bill that would tilt the workers’ compensation system markedly toward employers. All 37 Democrats present voted against House File 518, joined by just one Republican, State Representative Rob Taylor. UPDATE: GOP Representative Clel Baudler was absent on March 16 but filed an “explanation of vote” in the House Journal on March 20 clarifying that he would have voted “nay” on this bill.

Lawmakers had received an enormous number of constituent contacts since the “dramatic” and “far-reaching” legislation first saw the light of day a little more than two weeks ago. In a rush to get this unpleasantness behind them before the weekend, GOP legislators insisted on a final vote before staff could analyze the cost of a “new career vocational training and education program,” conjured up in an amendment filed the previous evening.

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Skills Gaps, Worker Preparedness, and Gauging Iowa’s Future Educational Needs

Another helpful reality check by Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson. Find his previous writing for this site here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

It is vexing to hear assertions of a skills gap in Iowa, or nationwide for that matter, when people are really complaining they can’t find workers to do what they want them to do for the wages they are willing to pay. That is not a skills gap.

Neither the inability of a grain elevator in rural Iowa to find grain handling help nor a manufacturer in Clinton to find computer-controlled machine tool operators or programmers are skills gaps. They may be regionally-specific skilled labor shortages, as is the case in much of rural Iowa because of persistent outmigration, they may be workforce indifference to those job opportunities, but they are not skills gaps.

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Politically motivated Iowa fraud case points to Polk County prosecutor's failure

A former administrative law judge who testified about political interference at Iowa Workforce Development is facing a felony fraud charge after staff in the Polk County Attorney’s office failed to do their homework.

Ryan Foley reported Thursday for the Associated Press that former Administrative Law Judge Susan Ackerman is charged with making fraudulent submissions, having “falsely certified that her married daughter was single so that she could receive state health insurance in 2013 and 2014.” When the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board reviewed an Iowa Workforce Development complaint citing the same conduct a year and a half ago, the board determined “that Ackerman didn’t commit an ethical violation and declined to take action against her law license,” Foley noted.

So why is she facing criminal prosecution now? Because no one in the Polk County Attorney’s office researched this case before filing charges.

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